The next time someone tells you that someone who has been a perennial disappointment (for reasons entirely under his own control) is having a "great training camp, where he has shown a ton of improvement," go ahead and either take it with a million grains of salt or ignore it altogether.
And if you're asking why I have that opinion, I will give you two words — Jaelen Strong.
After a preseason in which we heard all about how well conditioned Strong was, and in which he had every opportunity handed to him to make an impact on this Texans team, Strong, a third year wide receiver out of Arizona State, was waived on Monday afternoon. This season, Strong had missed the season opener while serving a one-game suspension for a 2016 marijuana arrest, and in the second game of the season last Thursday in Cincinnati, Strong played 20 snaps and was not targeted a single time.
For his part, Strong handled the news fairly well...
The waiver of Strong was one of a handful of moves made by the Texans on Monday, including the re-signing of WR Andy Jones to take Strong's spot, which would seem to indicate that Strong's Thursday performance (or lack thereof) was a turning point in the club's opinion of his play, since they cut Jones to bring Strong back from suspension, and are now reversing course a week later.
Let's examine this decision on Strong a little further...
1. How bad do you have to be at wide receiver to get waived by the Texans?
Pretty freaking bad. Strong has never been able to get out of second gear as a Texan, as he showed up at training camp as a rookie overweight, weighing around 230 pounds. When he finally got on the field in his rookie season, he made an impact, catching two touchdowns against the Colts on a Thursday night, and then scoring the game-winning touchdown in the rematch with the Colts that season, the first Texans win in Indy in team history. But those types of moments were sparse, and he finished his Texans career with just 28 receptions for 292 yards in 19 games. The three touchdowns he scored against the Colts in 2015 are the only three scores of his career. Aside from the statistical disappointment is the stark reality that Strong was just cut from a wide receiving corps that consists of the frequently targeted DeAndre Hopkins, the injured Will Fuller, the ineffective Braxton Miller, the concussed Bruce Ellington and the now re-signed Andy Jones. Woof.
2. Rick Smith's drafting in the third round of the draft has been beyond pathetic.
The overall drafting of Rick Smith outside of the first round is another post for another time, but no round has been more peppered with a combination of poor evaluation and just plain bad luck than Houston's third round picks. The fact is Strong is just the latest to wash out. Let's take a walk down memory lane. Here are all of Rick Smith's third round picks and how things ended up for each one...
2007, JACOBY JONES, WR (3/73)
Mercurial return specialist who was a below-average receiver. Eventually run out of town after a crucial fumble in Baltimore in 2011 playoffs. Ironically, became a cult hero in Baltimore after a monster 2012 postseason, which ended with a Super Bowl title.
2008, ANTWAUN MOLDEN, CB (3/79)
Played 20 games in three seasons, tallying one tackle and one fumble recovery. Played all 16 games for the Patriots in 2011, one year after being cut by the Texans.
2008, STEVE SLATON, RB (3/89)
Led the AFC in yards from scrimmage as a rookie, then showed up about 20 pounds heavier the next season, lost his speed, got injured and was eventually replaced by some guy named Arian Foster.
2009, ANTOINE CALDWELL, G/C (3/77)
Started 19 games at guard over four nondescript seasons.
2010, EARL MITCHELL, DT (3/81)
Started 17 games at nose tackle over four seasons, tallying 3.5 sacks and 81 tackles. Left in free agency for Miami, where he received a four-year, $16 million deal.
2012, DeVIER POSEY, WR (3/68)
Posey started one game in three seasons, had 22 catches, and no touchdowns. Seven picks later, the Seahawks took Russell Wilson. We can now all light ourselves on fire.
2012, BRANDON BROOKS, G (3/76)
Brooks became a solid starter over his final three seasons, starting 44 games, so naturally he left in free agency, as the Texans chose to pay free agent Jeff Allen less money to be far worse than Brooks.
2013, BRENNAN WILLIAMS, T (3/89)
Williams got hurt (knee) in his first day of rookie minicamp, which led to microfracture surgery later that summer. He was released when O'Brien and the new staff came in. Williams retired from football in 2015 and is now a rising star in WWE's developmental system.
2013, SAM MONTGOMERY, DE (3/95)
Head scratcher of a draft pick largely because everyone (including his coaches at LSU) thought he was an odd scheme fit for Wade Phillips. It turned out not to matter as he was released halfway through his rookie year for a "smoking" incident at the team hotel in Kansas City.
2014, C.J. FIEDOROWICZ, TE (3/65)
After two subpar seasons, came into his own with 54 catches last season. Got a contract extension a couple weeks ago, and then suffered his third concussion in less than a year in the season opener.
2014, LOUIS NIX III, DT (3/83)
Texans traded up to get Nix, who as it turned out was both injury-prone and not really into playing football. He was released prior to the 2015 season, having never played a game as a Texan.
2015, JAELEN STRONG, WR (3/70)
We've covered this here, but know that, like Nix, the Texans MOVED UP to get Strong, which is even more damning.
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2016, BRAXTON MILLER, WR (3/85)
Well on his way to becoming the next third round fiasco, with just 17 catches in 12 games.
2017, D'ONTA FOREMAN, RB (3/89)
Looks promising so far, but stay tuned...
3. What other players should be on alert after this news today?
Plenty on the offensive side of the ball. I'm not sure what it says that when the Texans are cutting former third round picks, my immediate reaction is that they should have no problem upgrading that spot with whatever random street guy they pick up. And truth be told, I feel this way about both starting guard spots (unless Greg Mancz is starting), both backup tight ends, at least one more wide receiver, and the roster spot Kendall Lamm currently occupies. It's incredible that the same general manager assembled THIS offense and THIS defense. It's like the same woman giving birth to both Scarlett Johansson and a German shepherd.
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